News

The European Parliament is open for business! -Day in the life of an MEP week 2

Judith Bunting MEP

This week has been momentous, with my time having been spent in Strasbourg for the opening of the European Parliament, voting for the president, finalising our committees, and continuing to find my feet as an MEP.


Monday was a day of travelling and emails as I made my way from the UK over to Strasbourg to finally take up my elected role as an MEP.

The opening of the European Parliament took place on Tuesday, and was an historic and emotional experience. Our group of 16 Liberal Democrat MEPs donned bright ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts to draw attention to the serious point that Brexit is not inevitable.

My personal goal as a Pro-European, British MEP is to be visible, accountable and show what really goes on in the European Parliament. 

We were elected to stop Brexit and are committed to achieving this. I am pleased to say that our bright message was heard across Europe and was received well by our fellow Europeans in Parliament. As a group we will continue to fight for Britain to play a leading role in the EU. I will do my best to represent you in this while I am a MEP.

Our first official task as MEPs was to vote for the next president of the European Parliament. I supported the newly elected president, David Sassoli, an Italian politician who has been very active in his support for young people and who is committed to tackling climate change. Later in the week Mr Sassoli addressed the European Parliament and stated; “Only when we are united can we counterbalance the most powerful global players.”

There were many voting sessions to elect the President of Parliament, 14 Vice Presidents and the Quaestors – sometimes described as the trades union leaders of MEPs. At almost 10pm on the second day of voting, we even voted on which method to use, with the quick and efficient electronic voting devices winning – thank goodness! With so many new MEPs we were given a trial run to ensure that everyone was happy with how to use them. This involved us voting yes, no or abstain on our favourite musicians. I am pretty sure that the Beatles won. I will get a photo to show you the voting device soon.

Judith Bunting MEP
Judith Bunting in European Parliament

Our committee positions were officially confirmed this week, and I am delighted that I represent the UK on the Education and Culture committee (CULT), and on the committee for Industry, Research and Energy. With my team I have also made a start on the applications for three pilot projects, putting together ideas around increasing interest in science among teenage girls and promoting lifelong learning. Both of these areas are close to my heart.

Back in the UK we had a number of team meetings in our new office space in Reading. The week was once again rounded off with visits to local Liberal Democrat teams, including a second party in Wokingham constituency where we celebrated their fantastic council gains and I talked with them about my role as a MEP.

If you are planning to hold street stalls to promote Europe over the summer, please let my team know by contacting us at; SocialMedia@JudithBunting.co.uk 

You can keep updated with my activities by signing up to receive my new MEP newsletter here.

Judith joins calls to halt Japanese commercial whaling

Judith Bunting MEP

Newly elected Liberal Democrat MEP Judith Bunting, has today signed a letter to the Japanese Ambassador to the European Union, expressing her deep disappointment and revulsion at his Government’s decision to return to commercial whaling this month. The entire LDEPP group has co-signed the letter demanding a reversal of this decision, which follows on from Japan’s departure from the International Whaling Commission at the end of June.

Speaking earlier today, Judith Bunting MEP for South East England said:

Judith Bunting MEP“I am saddened and highly disappointed by the decision of the Government of Japan to return to commercial whaling, following their departure from the International Whaling Commission. Whales are killed with exploding harpoons, some requiring a second shot, or a round of rifle fire. Some whales suffer for up to 25 minutes before they finally die. There is no need for commercial whaling, it is a cruel trade that provides nothing that the world really needs.”

Under the recently signed EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the EU and Japan both committed themselves to conserving and sustainably managing natural resources and addressing biodiversity. In the context of this agreement, the strongly worded diplomatic letter co – signed by the entire Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party, calls on Japan to review its whaling policy.

Judith shares: “The horrific and haunting scenes of bloodied whales are an outrage. In a changing international order, Japan and the European Union have rightly built a close relationship, but as close friends it is time to have a frank discussion about these worrying developments. I am determined to use my new role to leverage Britain’s influence as part of the world’s largest trading bloc to fight for positive environmental action. We do not need to place any more animals on the endangered species list.”

Letter_Voaden_Ambassador Kazuo KODAMA signatures[1]

“Newbury Talks” with your MEP

Rounding off her time as co-organiser of Newbury talks, MEP Judith Bunting reflects; “I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through Newbury Talks, both the audience and speakers. The sessions have been engaging and eclectic, covering a wide variety of subjects.” Since being elected as an MEP for the South East of England, Judith’s time is now taken up with focussing on her role in the European Parliament, which officially started on Tuesday.

Sunday’s talk featured Alom Shaha
discussing ‘How to be your child’s first
science teacher’. Teacher & author
of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom spoke about how to introduce science to children, and how parents can help their children learn using their natural curiosity about the world and taking the step from “wow!” to “how?”.

 


Attending her last session, Judith comments; “I am pleased to say that I will be sitting on the education and culture commission, and as Alom said at ‘Newbury Talks’ – science is one of our greatest cultural achievements, humans make science.”

 

Organised with Trevor Mathers, and supported by his family, Newbury Talks was established in 2016. Trevor says; “Newbury Talks has been organising free talks to educate and entertain since March 2016. In that time, we have covered an eclectic range of subjects from genetics, telling the future using crowd sourcing, making music from data, all the way through to political corruption in the UK!”


Speaking of what the future holds for Newbury Talks, Trevor explains “We are currently putting together the next programme of talks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline, watch this space.”


To keep updated with upcoming ‘Newbury Talks’ events, you can contact the team here: info@newburytalks.org.uk

 

Sentiment, stunts and a serious point made in Strasbourg

The European Parliament in Strasbourg re-opened today. It was a truly emotional and historic occasion. The European elections were not supposed to happen, and we now have 16 Liberal Democrat MEPS taking their seats.

At the opening session, all 16 of us took the opportunity to make our political point, wearing bright ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts as we walked into the huge, impressive Plenary Chamber. This is serious. Now we have your attention –  we have got to #StopBrexit. We should not plough on with a bad idea simply to try and save the Conservative party. Brexit is not good for Britain, not good for jobs, not good for our children, and not good for our future.

In the Chamber, we stood for the EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which was accompanied by a saxophone quartet. This was a wonderful moment, and it is worth considering the lyrics of this piece:

Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divides. 
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Britain belongs in a cooperative union with our nearest neighbours. For the sake of peace, security, trade, jobs and a positive future for our children. If you agree, however you have voted in the past, you are welcome to join our campaign to keep Britain in Europe.

New faces, new places

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks from being at the count at the end of May through to this week, when Parliament opens.

The first day in Brussels I seemed to be continually lost, but everybody from the ushers to the civil servants took time to help. Everyone has been so friendly. Almost every official  has quietly said something along the lines of, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but we are all very pleased to see the Liberal Democrats back in Europe.” No one here wants Brexit to happen – and for all the right reasons.

This week has been dominated by final preparations and organisation before the European Parliament sits, when, alongside my fifteen colleagues from across the UK, I officially take my seat. We have received our committee allocations, and I am delighted to announce that I have been selected to sit on the European Parliament’s Committee for Education and Culture.

 

I have attended a number of Renew Europe group meetings looking at policy and discussing a framework document. I also took the opportunity to attend a briefing session on Tuesday looking at the latest research in energy storage to promote the use of renewable energy for the grid and for vehicles, and also how better energy storage can help us meet the EU energy and climate goals. 

This is a critical subject for future research. Whilst worldwide energy use overall is predicted to decrease, electricity use is predicted to double! The EU has set an ambitious, binding target of 32% for renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix by 2030, it is now up to member states to implement this.

Looking at education and culture, we learned on Thursday that new MEPs have an opportunity to propose pilot projects to the commission, but the deadline is tight. Me and my team are planning to propose a scheme to promote and retain girls’ interest in science and engineering. This is just one of the ways in which those you elected can help to guide the work of the commission.

Renew Europe, as a group, met to discuss our position document to lay out our ideas and intentions to the European Council and the Commission. It is a real honour to be sitting with, working and voting with so many well-intentioned, like-minded people.

This first parliamentary session in Strasbourg begins next week. People tell me that the Parliament building is similar to the Galactic Senate Chamber in Star Wars, I will let you know!

Rounding off my week, back in the UK, I had the privilege of being shown around the breath-taking grounds at Brookwood Military Cemetery to mark Armed Forces Day, and in West Berkshire attending a session discussing how to be your child’s first science teacher.

 

Armed Forces Day remembered at Brookwood Military Cemetery

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the open day of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) at Brookwood Military Cemetery, near Woking.

Showing me around the site historian Lynelle Howson told me first-hand about the work of the CWGC and their determination to treat every deceased soldier as an equal. Headstones are of equal size and shape, no matter rank or regiment.

Only when you get close can you make out personal details such as religion, regiment, names, and ages. Some headstones include quotations, chosen by the soldier’s family. Walking along a row of headstones for young men who died together, aged 19, 20 and 21 years … well, what can I say?

The CWGC cares for 1.7 million casualties of the first and second world war, from Britain and the Commonwealth, in over 150 countries and territories across 23,000 locations.

The largest CWGC cemetery in the UK, Brookwood contains the graves of over 1,600 servicemen of the British Empire in the First World War and over 3,470 from the Second World War.

It is a fascinating, stunning reminder of the sacrifices made for us in the first and second world wars. The men and women resting here are well looked after.


HE WILL NOT AGE
HIS SONG IS SUNG
AND HE REMAINS
FOREVER YOUNG.

(From the grave of J.V.Eliis,
Canadian navigator, age 26)

 

Photo credit to Megan Maltby

Renew Europe- What’s in a name?

After being joined by the En Marche party, the European Parliament group ALDE, has been renamed Renew Europe. The new name shows that the Group is united with the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament. 

 

The Liberal Democrats are at the heart of the new political group working to Renew Europe, and as a group holding 108 seats we have a unique opportunity to shape Europe. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but together we are inspired to build a free and fair Europe.

 

The Renew Europe UK Group will be led by Catherine Bearder, with Luisa Porritt as Deputy Leader and Barbara Gibson as the Chief Whip.

 

We are also delighted that Martin Horwood, MEP for South West & Gibraltar, has been elected as one of the Vice Presidents, for Renew Europe. Martin says ‘I’ll do my best to help the group focus on the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, LGBT rights, defending the rule of law and confronting populist nationalism across Europe.’

Three years on – now is the time to Stop Brexit

Marking the third anniversary of the 2016 EU referendum, Brexit has made no progress. For three years we have been fighting to give the people the final say on the deal with the option to stay in the EU.

Judith Bunting, MEP for South East England, attended a number of rallies and events across the region to mark the anniversary. Speaking at Reading and Wycombe, she called on people to unite and work together to #StopBrexit:

“After three years the whole process is dying on its feet, with even Brexit supporters no longer able to point to any potential benefits. Left and right are coming onside to support a People’s Vote. We must work together to save Britain, and everyone can help”.

Judith continued, “We all know someone who voted leave. We should talk with them. Explain why we want to save the future of the UK, and bring them onside so that we can work together to stop Brexit.”

Enough is enough, Brexit must be stopped.

It’s not too late to Stop Brexit

Judith Bunting - Stop Brexit rally Brussels Pro Europa

Addressing the Pro Europa Stop Brexit rally in Brussels, Judith Bunting MEP has called on people to work together to #StopBrexit and save the future of the UK. 

How can the UK survive Brexit? ‘One of my most fundamental worries is the survival of the UK. My country, our country. I am so angry to think of how our country could be ripped apart. The Irish backstop issue is a mess. Scotland is likely to hold a second referendum and will break away from the UK.’

The real damage here is that we are seeing private interest taking down a nation. When you look at the involvement of Cambridge Analytica, and listen to the TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr, where she discusses Facebook’s role in Brexit and the threat to democracy, the threat is very real.

Judith Bunting - Stop Brexit rally Brussels Pro EuropaMy focus to stay in Europe has developed from my personal focus of environmental protection to the protection of small businesses.’ Small and medium sized businesses accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in the UK, and 60% of all private sector employment. 

While that figure ignores public sector employees, it does tell you that small businesses are critical to us all and they are being seriously damaged by Brexit.

If we want to #StopBrexit, we need to work together. Our power is our networks. Mainstream media are not going to help us in this. We must continue talking with family and friends who voted leave to build on the growing number of people who have already changed their minds. 

Support for a people’s vote is growing with every political event. A people’s vote, a final say is the only answer. We must work together to Stop Brexit.

Stop Brexit rally in Brussels

 

Judith Bunting MEP joins group in call for urgent intervention over electoral chaos – #deniedmyvote

Newly elected MEP, Judith Bunting, has added her name to the cross-party group of MEPS who have written to the Venice Commission, (the European Commission for Democracy through Law), asking for an urgent intervention into declining democratic standards in the UK. 

Swathes of people who live and work in the United Kingdom were denied their right to have their say in the recent European Elections, and this denial of democracy cannot go unnoticed. 

Judith Bunting MEP says: “The problems faced by EU citizens in the recent Euro Elections, along with declining democratic standards that we’ve seen recently in the UK, is concerning. I am glad to join with this cross-party group of UK MEPs to deliver this letter to asking the Venice Commission urgently to investigate.”

 

 

The five key points for inquiry are:

  • Breach of spending rules and data-protection laws during the EU referendum in June 2016.
  • Exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from the franchise for the EU referendum.
  • The UK government’s approach to the recent European Elections, involving delayed planning resulting in increased pressure on electoral services departments of local authorities.
  • The disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries whose postal votes did not arrive in time.
  • The disenfranchisement of non-UK EU citizens due to the newly introduced two-step registration process. 

The group of MEPs, is not convinced that our existing government has either the will or the capacity to address these issues. This cross party action, led by Molly Scott Cato MEP and Catherine Bearder MEP, highlights that electoral integrity must come before any party politics.